epa05268633 Pakistani security officials stand guard beside a Police vehicle that was targeted by unknown gunmen in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 April 2016. At least seven policemen were on security duty to Polio vaccination team were killed by unknown gunmen in Karachi. Pakistan is one of the last two countries -along with Afghanistan- where the polio is still endemic, meaning infections occur within the local population or within a particular area. Though new polio cases dropped to a nine-year low in 2015, attacks by Islamist militants against health workers and police guarding them remained a challenge for a UN-funded vaccination campaign. Only 51 children were found infected with the crippling virus in 2015 compared to 306 a year earlier in what officials said a major achievement due to the success of a military offensive. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER

Islamabad: A Pakistani Taliban group on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the killing of seven policemen who were guarding polio vaccination teams in the country’s commercial hub of Karachi.

The attacks highlight the risk for the vaccination teams and their police guards in Pakistan which is among the three countries where the polio virus persist.

Vaccination campaign was suspended in parts of Karachi after the two attacks in different locations within 15 minutes, officials said.

Gunmen riding motorcycles sprayed bullets at the police mobile teams, a police officer Fairoz Shah told reporters. The gunmen fled after the attacks.

The authorities had launched a three-day polio vaccination drive in Karachi on Monday and the attacks occurred on the last day of the campaign. Health officials had planned to administer drops to nearly 2.2 million children in Karachi.

The Pakistani Taliban splinter Jamaat-ul-Ahrar group claimed responsibility.

“We have carried out both attacks on the polio teams in Karachi,” spokesman for the TTP JA Ehsaullah Ehsan told the local media over phone. He said the attacks were part of the group’s activities across Pakistan.

The group, which the officials say operates from the Afghan side of the border, has claimed several recent attacks.

The TTP JA had also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the excise office in Mardan on Tuesday that killed at least one person and injured 17 others.

Last month the group’s bomber killed nearly 70 people at a park in Lahore.

IANS